Here at the head of her lovely bay tremblingly waited Mobile, never before so empty of men, so full of women and children. Southward, from two to four leagues apart, ran the sun-beaten, breezy margins of snow-white sand-hills evergreen with weird starveling pines, dotted with pretty summer homes and light steamer-piers. Here on the Eastern Shore were the hotels: “Howard’s,” “Short’s,” “Montrose,” “Battle’s Wharf” and Point Clear, where summer society had been wont to resort all the way from beloved New Orleans. Here, from Point Clear, the bay, broadening south-westward, doubled its width, and here, by and by, this eastern shore-line suddenly became its southern by returning straight westward in a long slim stretch of dazzling green-and-white dunes, and shut its waters from the Gulf of Mexico except for a short “pass” of a few hundred yards width and for some three miles of shoal water between the pass and Dauphin Island; and there on that wild sea-wall’s end—Mobile Point—a dozen leagues due south from the town—sat Fort Morgan, keeping this gate, the port’s main ship-channel. Here, north-west from Morgan, beyond this main entrance and the league of impassable shoals, Fort Gaines guarded Pelican Channel, while a mile further townward Fort Powell held Grant’s Pass into and out of Mississippi Sound, and here along the west side, out from Mobile, down the magnolia-shaded Bay Shell Road and the bark road below it, Kincaid’s Battery and the last thousand “reserves” the town’s fighting blood could drip—whole platoons of them mere boys—had marched, these two days, to Forts Powell and Gaines.
All this the Callenders took in with the mind’s eye as they bent over a candle-lighted map, while aware by telegraph that behind Gaines, westward on Dauphin Island, blue troops from New Orleans had landed and were then night-marching upon the fort in a black rainstorm. Furthest down yonder, under Morgan’s hundred and fifteen great guns, as Anna pointed out, in a hidden east-and-west double row athwart the main channel, leaving room only for blockade-runners, were the torpedoes, nearly seventy of them. And, lastly, just under Morgan’s north side, close on the channel’s eastern edge, rode, with her three small gunboats, the Tennessee, ugly to look at but worse to meet, waiting, watching, as up here in Fort Powell, smiling at the scurviness of their assignment, watched and waited Kincaid’s Battery.
Upstairs the new Steve gently wailed.
“Let me!” cried Anna, and ran.
Constance drew out Mandeville’s newspaper. Miranda smiled despairingly.
“I wish, now,” sighed the sister, “we’d shown it when we got it. I’ve had enough of keeping things from Nan Callender. Of course, even among our heroes in prison, there still may be a ‘Harry Renard’; but it’s far more likely that someone’s telegraphed or printed ‘Hilary Kinkaid’ that way; for there was a Herry Renard, Steve says, a captain, in Harper’s calvary, who months ago quietly died in one of our own hospitals—at Lauderdale. Now, at headquarters, Steve says, they’re all agreed that the name isn’t a mite more suggestive than the pure daring of the deed, and that if they had to guess who did it they’d every one guess Hilary Kincaid.”